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BLOG | NEWS | 04 October 2016

Adam Ondra, tries Dawn Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite, 900m, 9a

On his first visit to Yosemite, Adam Ondra goes straight for Dawn Wall, to try the first repetition.

Adam Ondra on Dawn Wall. Photo: Dustin Moore, Black Diamond Equipment
“I’ve been thinking for years about going to Yosemite, and finally now is the right time. The last three years I was studying and I couldn’t really miss that much school in October and November, which is the season for the Valley. So, I just finished University and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, and I’m free and can go to Yosemite.”

Just a week ago, Czech climber Adam Ondra arrived for his first visit to Yosemite. His plan was to free-climb The Nose, Salathé and finish by attempting the first repetition of Dawn Wall, a 900m, 30-pitch, grade 9a route, which is considered the toughest wall in the world.

He had planned to spend some time getting used to crack climbing and granite.”...the only training that was Yosemite oriented was one day I went sandstone climbing in the Czech Republic and we climbed some offwidths, which was pretty cool. At first I sucked a lot, but by the last pitch, which was the hardest one, I found a little technique and was feeling more in control. For sure at the beginning I was using too much power.“ North America is one of most famous places for crack climbing and a challenge for Europeans who are more used to slabs and overhangs.

Adam Ondra, on his first day in Yosemite, suffering an offwidth
However, just two days after arriving in Yosemite, to everyone’s surprise, Adam takes on Dawn Wall. This is extraordinary seeing as he not only lacks experience in crack climbing, but also trad. climbing: “I’ve climbed multi-pitches in the Alps and Madagascar, but I don’t have that much experience with trad … like hand-jamming and finger-locking, but I hope I will learn.”

“First day on the big wall in Yosemite, and straight onto the Dawn Wall! Foolishness, lack of respect or boldness?” Ondra told Black Diamond Equipment on Monday. “Well, not necessarily any of it. The Dawn Wall just dries up quickly after the huge rain on Sunday. And it went all right. Definitely scary and adventurous. Tiny footholds and insecure climbing, smearing my feet onto glassy footholds of Yosemite granite and all that with poor protection by copperheads, peckers, tiny cams and occasional bolts”

And his attempt certainly seems to be going well... “I ripped some copperheads, took some falls but made it to the top of pitch 7 and fixed our ropes. Leading the pitches with all the fear definitely felt super hard, but once I had the rope from above, the moves felt OK.

But grades on the Dawn Wall are definitely not overrated. Great success for today and 5 pitches to go tomorrow to have our ropes fixed under the crux pitches.”

The route is unique. A 30-pitch, 900 metre climb, rated at 9a. First free-climbed by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, after 8 years working on the project.

This is certainly the hardest big wall climb in the world, especially because none of the pitches are easy. Listed from easy to most difficult there are 4 pitches rated at 6b+, 8 at 7a+, 2 at 7c+, 1 at 8a, 7 at 8a+, 2 at 8b, 4 at 8b+, 1 at 8c, and finally 2 at 9a.

Truly impressive. Especially if we bear in mind that a large part has poor protection on the route.

There’s no doubt that there will be some exciting weeks to come, in Yosemite.

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